Matt Oakley returns to St. Neots Town this evening, almost 25 years after playing for the Saints as a teenager.
MK Dons’ Assistant Manager spent a season with the Cambridgeshire outfit in-between spells at Arsenal and Southampton back in the early 90s, and he is looking forward to re-visiting the club this evening - albeit with a different hairstyle!
"It was nice when I arrived here to look at the pre-season fixture list and see St. Neots Town,” he told mkdons.com ahead of tonight’s friendly at Rowley Park.
“I was a schoolboy at Arsenal for two years but left when I was 14 to join St Neots Town, where my Dad was playing. I played a year there and we were quite a successful team. We had some good players there. It will be great to go back.
“I have great memories of my time there. I remember us playing the local rivals, Eynesbury Rovers. They were in the league above us at the time and it was a big thing to play them at the time. We played them in the Scott Gatty Cup and we beat them 2-1 on their pitch. It was a big thing for us!
“Another highlight was playing in a charity game with my brother and my Dad. I never got the chance to really play with my brother properly.”
He continued: “That year with St Neots and my first two years as an apprentice at Southampton were the biggest parts of my career. I went from playing Under-14s football to playing men in senior football - being a 15-year-old with a pony tail and playing in that environment taught me a real lesson about handling the ball and respect for my opponent. It taught me to look after myself.
“I’ve stayed in touch with St. Neots because we used their training facilities while with Exeter. With Exeter being where it is, we sometimes had to travel and train half-way to some away games. They were good enough to allow us to use their pitch and facilities.
“My brother is still involved with the Under-10s and my nephew plays for them. My Uncle coaches there as well.”
Tonight’s friendly is not only a special occasion for the aforementioned reason, but also because it provides both Oakley and Paul Tisdale with a first-look at their first-team squad ahead of the 2018/19 season.
The majority of the side is expected to feature at Rowley Park, as the players look to build up minutes prior to that trip to Oldham Athletic in August.
Oakley said: “For our lads, it will be about getting minutes into their legs. We will not be at our full throttle, we will be progressing slowly through these games. We don’t want to lose players through pushing them too early. We’ll give everybody a game.
Entry to tonight’s friendly with St. Neots Town is priced at £8 adults and £5 concessions while under-16s go FREE when accompanied by a full-paying adult. Entry at the turnstiles is cash only.